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Publication numberUS7298182 B2
Publication typeGrant
Application numberUS 10/867,896
Publication dateNov 20, 2007
Filing dateJun 15, 2004
Priority dateJun 15, 2004
Fee statusPaid
Also published asCN1801605A, DE102005025910A1, US20050275435
Publication number10867896, 867896, US 7298182 B2, US 7298182B2, US-B2-7298182, US7298182 B2, US7298182B2
InventorsJung Pill Kim
Original AssigneeInfineon Technologies Ag
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Comparator using differential amplifier with reduced current consumption
US 7298182 B2
Abstract
A comparator circuit with reduced current consumption, and other circuits utilizing the same, are provided. The comparator circuit may achieve reduced current consumption by preventing current flow via a switching transistors responsive to the voltage level of the input signal.
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Claims(10)
1. A comparator circuit, comprising:
a current source;
a differential amplifier for providing an output voltage signal indicative of a voltage level of an input voltage signal applied to a first input transistor relative to a reference voltage signal applied to a second input transistor, wherein the first and second input transistors are coupled at a common node;
a switching transistor positioned to prevent the flow of current between the current source and the common node in response to a switching voltage signal applied to the switching transistor, wherein the switching voltage signal is derived from the input voltage signal; and
a precharge transistor to precharge the input voltage signal to a predetermined value;
wherein the switching transistor is a NMOS transistor and the switching voltage signal is derived from the input voltage signal such that the switching transistor prevents the flow of current between the current source and the common node when the input voltage signal falls below a threshold voltage and wherein the precharge transistor is responsive to a voltage signal derived from the output voltage signal.
2. The comparator circuit of claim 1, wherein the first and second input transistors are NMOS transistors.
3. The comparator circuit of claim 1, wherein the input voltage signal is applied directly to a gate of the switching transistor as the switching voltage signal.
4. The comparator circuit of claim 1, further comprising a voltage generator circuit for deriving the switching voltage signal from the input voltage signal.
5. The comparator circuit of claim 4, wherein the voltage generator circuit comprises a voltage divider circuit.
6. A comparator circuit, comprising:
a current source;
a differential amplifier for providing an output voltage signal indicative of a voltage level of an input voltage signal applied to a first input transistor relative to a reference voltage signal applied to a second input transistor, wherein the first and second input transistors are coupled at a common node;
a switching transistor positioned to prevent the flow of current between the current source and the common node in response to a switching voltage signal applied to the switching transistor; and
a precharge transistor to precharge the input voltage signal to a predetermined value;
wherein the switching transistor is a PMOS transistor and the switching voltage signal is derived from the input voltage signal such that the switching transistor prevents the flow of current between the current source and the common node when the input voltage signal is above a threshold voltage and wherein the precharge transistor is responsive to a voltage signal derived from the output voltage signal.
7. The comparator circuit of claim 6, wherein the input voltage signal is applied directly to a gate of the switching transistor as the switching voltage signal.
8. The comparator circuit of claim 6, further comprising a voltage generator circuit for deriving the switching voltage signal from the input voltage signal.
9. The comparator circuit of claim 8, wherein the voltage generator circuit comprises a voltage divider circuit.
10. A comparator circuit, comprising:
a current source;
a differential amplifier for providing an output voltage signal indicative of a voltage level of an input voltage signal applied to a first input transistor relative to a reference voltage signal applied to a second input transistor, wherein the first and second input transistors are coupled at a common node;
a switching transistor positioned to prevent the flow of current between the current source and the common node in response to a switching voltage signal applied to the switching transistor, wherein the switching voltage signal is derived from the input voltage signal; and
a precharge transistor to precharge the input voltage signal to a predetermined value, wherein the precharge transistor is responsive to a voltage signal derived from the output voltage signal.
Description
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention generally relates to integrated circuit devices and, more particularly to comparator circuits utilized in integrated circuit devices.

2. Description of the Related Art

Integrated circuit devices (ICs) utilize comparator circuits for a variety of purposes. As an example, an IC device, such as a dynamic random access memory (DRAM) device may utilize a comparator circuit to determine the state of an input signal (e.g., an internal control signal) by comparing the voltage level of the input voltage signal against a reference voltage signal. Such a comparator circuit is commonly implemented utilizing a differential amplifier that generates an output signal by amplifying the difference between the input signal and the reference voltage signal.

FIG. 1A illustrates one example of a conventional comparator circuit 100A utilizing a differential amplifier circuit to generate an output signal VOUT indicative of the condition of an input signal VIN relative to a reference voltage VREF. The differential amplifier includes an arrangement of PMOS load transistors (MPA and MPB) and NMOS input transistors (MNA and MNB). The differential amplifier generates the single ended output VOUT that represents an amplification of the difference between VREF and VIN.

In operation, if the voltage level of VREF is greater than the voltage level of VIN, the current flowing through MNA (IA) will be greater than the current flowing through MNB (IB) and, thus, the potential at output node B will be high. On the other hand, if the voltage level of VREF is less than VIN, the current flowing through MNA (IA) will be less than the current flowing through MNB (IB) and, thus, the potential at output node B will be low. Unfortunately, in this arrangement, the differential amplifier suffers from constant current consumption (IREF), regardless of the state of the input signal VIN.

FIG. 1B illustrates an example of another type of conventional comparator circuit 100B utilizing a differential amplifier circuit with PMOS input transistors (MPA and MPB). In this arrangement, if the voltage level of VREF is less than the voltage level of VIN, the current flowing through MPA (IA) will be greater than the current flowing through MNB (IB) and, thus, the potential at output node B will be high. If the voltage level of VREF is greater than VIN, the current flowing through MPA (IA) will be less than the current flowing through MPB (IB) and, thus, the potential at output node B will be low. Unfortunately, the differential amplifier in this arrangement also suffers from constant current consumption (IREF), from comparator circuit 110B regardless of the state of the input signal VIN.

This constant current consumption makes utilizing these types of comparators problematic in applications requiring minimal power consumption, such as in DRAM devices used in portable electronics, such as laptop computers, mobile phones, and personal digital assistants (PDAs). Accordingly, there is a need for a comparator circuit with reduced current consumption.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally provides comparator circuits with reduced current consumption, and other circuits utilizing the same.

One embodiment provides a comparator circuit generally including a current source, differential amplifier and switching transistor. The differential amplifier provides an output voltage signal indicative of voltage level of an input voltage signal applied to first input transistor relative to a reference voltage signal applied to a second input transistor, wherein the first and second input transistors are coupled at a common node. The switching transistor is positioned to prevent the flow of current between the current source and the common node in response to a switching voltage signal applied to the switching transistor, wherein the switching voltage signal is derived from the input voltage signal.

Another embodiment provides an oscillator circuit generally including a capacitor having a voltage due to stored charge, a first current source to charge the capacitor, and a comparator circuit for providing an output voltage signal indicative of the capacitor voltage applied to a first input transistor relative to a reference voltage signal applied to a second input transistor, wherein the first and second input transistors are coupled at a common node. A switching transistor is positioned to prevent the flow of current between a second current source and the common node in response to a switching voltage signal applied to the switching transistor, wherein the switching voltage signal is derived from the capacitor voltage. A precharge transistor is positioned to discharge the capacitor in response to a precharge signal derived from the output voltage signal.

Another embodiment provides a memory device generally including a plurality of memory cells, circuitry for refreshing the memory cells in response to a pulsed refresh signal, and an oscillator circuit for generating the pulsed refresh signal. The oscillator circuit generally includes a capacitor having a voltage due to stored charge, a first current source to charge the capacitor, a comparator circuit for providing an output voltage signal indicative of the capacitor voltage applied to a first input transistor relative to a reference voltage signal applied to a second input transistor, wherein the first and second input transistors are coupled at a common node. A switching transistor is positioned to prevent the flow of current between a second current source and the common node in response to a switching voltage signal applied to the switching transistor, wherein the switching voltage signal is derived from the capacitor voltage. The oscillator circuit also includes a pulse generator for generating the pulsed refresh signal in response to a change in the output voltage signal and a precharge transistor positioned to discharge the capacitor in response to a precharge signal derived from the output voltage signal.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

So that the manner in which the above recited features of the present invention can be understood in detail, a more particular description of the invention, briefly summarized above, may be had by reference to embodiments, some of which are illustrated in the appended drawings. It is to be noted, however, that the appended drawings illustrate only typical embodiments of this invention and are therefore not to be considered limiting of its scope, for the invention may admit to other equally effective embodiments.

FIGS. 1A and 1B illustrate exemplary comparator circuits in accordance with the prior art.

FIGS. 2A-2C illustrate exemplary comparator circuits in accordance with embodiments of the present invention.

FIGS. 3A and 3B are exemplary timing diagrams corresponding to the comparator circuit FIGS. 2A and 2B, respectively, in accordance with embodiments of the present invention.

FIG. 4 illustrates a dynamic random access memory (DRAM) device utilizing an exemplary oscillator circuit in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is an exemplary timing diagram corresponding to the oscillator circuit of FIG. 4.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The present invention generally provides a comparator circuit with reduced current consumption relative to conventional comparator circuits. As previously described, conventional comparator circuits utilizing differential amplifiers consume current regardless of the voltage level of the input signal. In contrast, comparator circuits in accordance with the present invention may reduce current consumption by preventing current flow via a switching transistors responsive to the voltage level of the input signal.

For some embodiments, the switching transistor may prevent the flow of current in a current path between a common node of input transistors and a current source, when the voltage level of the input signal falls below (or exceeds) a threshold level. As will be described in greater detail below, such comparator circuits may be utilized as building blocks in a variety of circuits, such as oscillator circuits. Such oscillator circuits may be utilized in DRAM devices, for example, to generate a periodic signal for use in self-refreshing DRAM memory cells, while reducing current consumption during self-refresh operations.

An Exemplary Comparator Circuit

FIG. 2A illustrates a comparator circuit 200A utilizing a differential amplifier circuit and an NMOS switching transistor MND, in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention. The comparator circuit 200A is configured to generate an output signal VOUT indicative of the voltage level of an input signal VIN relative to a reference voltage level VREF.

However, by positioning the switching transistor MND in a current path between a common node A of the input transistors MNA and MNB and a current source 210A, current consumption of the comparator circuit 200A can be reduced. For example, by applying the input voltage signal VIN to the gate of the switching transistor MND, as illustrated, current will only flow in the current path when VIN exceeds the switching threshold voltage (VT-N) of the switching transistor MND, typically 0.4V to 0.5V. Thus, while VIN is below VT-N, there is no current consumption in the comparator 200A (ignoring leakage currents).

Operation of the comparator circuit 200A may be described with reference to FIG. 3A which is a timing diagram of VOUT and the current flow through the current path (IA+IB) versus VIN. As illustrated, VOUT is initially high, VIN is initially low, and VREF is set above the threshold voltage level of the switching transistor MND. While VIN is below the threshold voltage of VND, there is no current consumption (i.e., IA+IB=0). Once VIN increases above VT-N, the switching transistor MND is switched on, and current flow through the current path increases to IREF.

While the current flow through the current path should remain substantially constant while MND is switched on, as long as VIN is below VREF, the current flow through MNA (IA) will be greater than the current flow through MNB (IB) and VOUT will remain high. However, once VIN increases above VREF, the current flow through MNB will be greater than the current flow through MNA and VOUT will transition low. As illustrated, as VIN decreases below VREF and further below VT-N, VOUT will return high and the current flow will again return to zero.

FIG. 2B illustrates a comparator circuit 200B, similar in operation to comparator circuit 200A, but utilizing a differential amplifier circuit and a PMOS switching transistor MPD. As illustrated, MPD may be positioned between a current source 210B and PMOS input transistors MPA and MPB, with VIN applied to the gate of MPD. Thus, current draw of the comparator circuit 200B may be reduced when VIN is above the threshold voltage of MPD (VT-P).

Operation of the comparator circuit 200B may be described with reference to the corresponding timing diagram shown in FIG. 3B. As illustrated, VIN is initially high, VOUT is initially low, and VREF is set above VT-P. While VIN remains above VT-P, there is no current consumption (i.e., IA+IB=0). Once VIN falls below VT-P, the switching transistor MPD is switched on, and current flow increases to IREF. Also, as VIN is below VREF at this time, the current flow through MPA (IA) will be greater than the current flow through MPB (IB) and, thus, the potential at output node B will transition high. As illustrated, as VIN increases above VT-P and VREF, the current flow will again return to zero and VOUT may transition low. In this scenario, as VIN is already below VREF when MPD is switched on, IB may never exceed IA. Thus, to obtain the desired initial conditions of VIN and VOUT, precharging transistors MPC and MNC may be used to initialize the VIN and VOUT to VSS and GND, respectively.

Whether a comparator circuit with an NMOS switching transistor (200A) or PMOS switching transistor (200B) is used may depend on a particular application. In other words, applications where VIN is likely to be low (below VT-N) a majority of the time may achieve greater current savings with an NMOS switching transistor, while applications where VIN is likely to be high (above VT-P) a majority of the time may achieve greater current savings with an PMOS switching transistor. For some applications utilizing a variety of input voltage signals, a combination of comparator circuits utilizing both NMOS and PMOS switch transistors may be utilized.

For some embodiments, the input signal VIN may be precharged to a desired value that may result in the prevention of current flow. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 2A, VIN may be precharged to ground via an NMOS precharge transistor MNC during a high period of a precharge signal (PRE), switching off MND. VIN may then be raised to a certain voltage, just above VREF, such as 1V. Until VIN reaches VT-N, MND will be switched off and, thus, the differential amplifier will not consume current. To achieve a similar effect in FIG. 2B, VIN may be precharged to a power supply voltage (VSS) via a PMOS precharge transistor MPC during a low period of a precharge signal bPRE, switching off MPD. As illustrated, output signals VOUT may also be precharged, for example using complementary transistors and signals to those used to precharge VIN.

For some embodiments, rather than apply VIN directly to the switch transistor (e.g., MPD or MPN), a switching voltage may be derived from VIN, which may provide greater control of the switching point. For example, as illustrated in FIG. 2C, a voltage generating circuit, such as a voltage divider 320, may be utilized to generate a switching voltage to be applied to the switching transistor MND, as a function of VIN. The values of resistors R1 and R2 of the voltage divider 320 may be selected to effectively cause MND to switch the current off at a desired higher voltage level of VIN than if VIN were applied to the gate of NMD directly.

An Exemplary Oscillator Circuit

Comparator circuits, such as those illustrated in FIGS. 2A-2C may be particularly effective at reducing current in applications where VIN increases or decreases slowly and has a relatively low frequency oscillation, as the current consumption may be switched off a majority of the time in such applications. One such application is to reduce current consumption in an oscillator circuit, such as the self-refresh oscillator 400 shown in FIG. 4 used to generate self-refresh request signals. As illustrated, refresh control circuitry 402 may receive the refresh request signals and, in response, refresh a row of memory cells 404. The refresh control circuitry may include any suitable circuitry, such as a row address counter (RAC) configured to increment a count on each refresh request and row address decoder circuitry to generate an address of a row of memory cells 404 to be refreshed based on a counter.

The oscillator circuit 410 may be described with simultaneous reference to FIG. 4 and the corresponding timing diagram shown in FIG. 5 that illustrates the relationship between VIN, VOUT, REFRESH_REQUEST and PRECHARGE signals. While the timing diagram corresponds to the timing of the comparator circuits 200A and 200C, utilizing NMOS switching transistors, it should be understood that comparator circuits utilizing PMOS switching (and/or precharge) transistors could be used as well. As illustrated, initially, VOUT is high and VIN is low, causing MND to be switched off, cutting off current flow of the comparator (IC=0).

At a time t=0, a switch 403 (e.g., controlled by a self-refresh enable signal) is closed, causing current flow Is from a current source 404 to charge a capacitor C, the stored charge of which results in the voltage signal VIN. Accordingly, VIN begins to rise at a rate determined by the size of C and the current IS. As illustrated in FIG. 5, once VIN rises above VT-N, MND switches on and IC rises to IREF (from current source 413). Once VIN rises above VREF, VOUT transitions low, causing pulse generator 412 to generate a REFRESH_REQUEST pulse.

As illustrated in FIG. 5, the REFRESH_REQUEST signal may be fed back, via a delay circuit 414 (having a delay period TD) to a precharge transistor MNC to precharge VIN to ground (discharging capacitor C), again causing IC to fall and VOUT to rise. As capacitor C charges and VIN rises, this cycle will repeat periodically, causing REFRESH_REQUEST pulses spaced apart by the refresh period TRP. The refresh period TRP may thus be controlled by controlling the rate at which VIN rises (e.g., via C and IS), and the selected values for VREF and the delay period TD.

CONCLUSION

The oscillator circuit 410 illustrates just one particular, but not limiting, application for a comparator circuit with reduced current consumption. Those skilled in the art will recognize that such comparator circuits may be used in a variety of devices that could benefit from reduced current consumption, such as different types of memory, processors, or other type logic devices.

While the foregoing is directed to embodiments of the present invention, other and further embodiments of the invention may be devised without departing from the basic scope thereof, and the scope thereof is determined by the claims that follow.

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8436659 *Jun 19, 2009May 7, 2013Marvell International Ltd.Circuits and methods for reducing electrical stress on a transistor
US8564370 *May 20, 2010Oct 22, 2013Himax Analogic, Inc.Error amplifier and LED circuit comprising the same
US20110285316 *May 20, 2010Nov 24, 2011Himax Analogic, Inc.Error Amplifier and LED Circuit Comprising the Same
Classifications
U.S. Classification327/77, 327/79, 327/66, 327/65, 330/252
International ClassificationG11C11/406, H03K5/22, H03K5/153, H03K19/00, H03K5/24
Cooperative ClassificationG11C11/406, G11C11/40615, H03K19/0016, H03K5/2472
European ClassificationG11C11/406I, H03K5/24F, H03K19/00P6, G11C11/406
Legal Events
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May 18, 2011FPAYFee payment
Year of fee payment: 4
Jan 15, 2010ASAssignment
Owner name: QIMONDA AG, GERMANY
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:INFINEON TECHNOLOGIES AG;REEL/FRAME:023853/0001
Effective date: 20060425
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Owner name: INFINEON TECHNOLOGIES AG, GERMANY
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:INFINEON TECHNOLOGIES NORTH AMERICA CORP.;REEL/FRAME:015775/0549
Effective date: 20050315
Jun 15, 2004ASAssignment
Owner name: INFINEON TECHNOLOGIES NORTH AMERICA, CORP., CALIFO
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:KIM, JUNG PILL;REEL/FRAME:015475/0780
Effective date: 20040611